Pendleton attorney Michael Breiling is running for circuit court judge for Umatilla and Morrow counties.
Breiling, 47, is seeking the Position 1 seat on the bench of the Sixth Judicial District. He filed to run on Oct. 6, according to the state’s election website. The term for circuit court judges is six years. Judge Lynn Hampton serves in the post and Wednesday afternoon announced she is not seeking re-election and plans to retire.
“We’re going to need a new judge,” Breiling said. “It is important that the judge be well versed in different areas of the law, and have deep experience in the areas of law the court is most likely to consider.
“I think I’m the best person for the job.”
Breiling began his legal career 22 years ago in the Portland area and has been in Pendleton 18 years. He and his wife, Heidi Van Kirk, have their own law firm in Pendleton and have raised a son and daughter. Breiling is an aggressive defense lawyer but said his legal background covers more.
“I’ve done every kind of criminal case, from murder to barking dogs, and every kind of family case you can imagine,” he said. “I’ve handled every kind of case the circuit court handles.”
He said most people have one interaction with the justice system, which probably means some kind of crisis brought them to court. The experience should be as positive as it can be, he said. Those murder and barking dog cases of years before, he recalled, came back-to-back and taught him a valuable lesson.
“Every person who shows up to the court, their case is the most important case there is,” Breiling said. “I think that’s something a judge really needs to remember.”
Hampton has not announced a retirement date, according to a written statement from the district court, but she made her intention to retire “generally known to the other judges and to members of the local Bar Association.” The statement also reported she looks forward to continuing her assignment as the family law, juvenile dependency and juvenile delinquency chief judge for Morrow and Umatilla counties into 2018.
March 6 is the last day for a candidate to file with the state elections division to make it on the ballot for the May 15 primary. Breiling said he expects someone else to file, and would be ready for the challenge.
“I think it’s important that the people of Umatilla and Morrow counties get the best judge they can,” he said.
Winning would mean leaving the firm of Breiling & Van Kirk and the job he loves, he said, for a new challenge. If he wins, the firm would continue with another lawyer taking over his end of the practice. He said he and his wife are considering who that might be.
Judges Eva Temple and Christopher Brauer filed to run again for their seats on the circuit court. Temple works in Hermiston and seeks reelection to Position 4, and Brauer works in Pendleton and seeks Position 5. No one has challenged either judge.